Thunder Mountain High School students attend a chemistry class on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Thunder Mountain High School students attend a chemistry class on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

School enrollment is lower, almost exactly as expected

Accurate projection helps school district plan budget

Juneau’s school enrollment continues to fall, but figures are almost exactly as much as the school district expected, according to a report the district submitted to the state.

The final reported enrollment, according to Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss’ report to the Board of Education on Tuesday, is 4,632 students. That’s down from 4,679 last year, according to the JSD budget booklet for the 2019 fiscal year.

As Weiss explained in a phone interview Tuesday, the actual enrollment is almost exactly as many students as the district expected. The projection, done annually by local consultant Gregg Erickson, predicted there would be 4,625 students this year.

Figures provided by JSD Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett showed that in the two previous years, enrollment has been difficult to predict. Going into the 2016 school year, there were about 200 more students than projections showed. Going into the 2017 school year, there were about 120 fewer students than were projected.

Weiss has been with the school district since 2014 years as director of student services, and said it’s always better to have enrollment on par with projections.

“We’re always happy when we’re at or a little bit above (projections),” Weiss said. “Way above would be great. It’s more of an impact when it’s under, especially significantly under. We’re very, very happy that we’re just a little above.”

The state provides funding for school districts based on the number of students a school district has, so if a district knows how many students to plan on having, it will have an easier time planning a budget in advance. According to numbers from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development in June, the projected amount of money per student (known as the Base Student Allocation) in the 2019 fiscal year is $5,930.

As a result, Weiss said, these enrollment numbers don’t change much of anything when it comes to budget planning.

Weiss said getting close to projections also helps because then they don’t have to shift staff around too much. She said that if you look closer at this year’s enrollment, the enrollments for elementary and high school were higher than projected while middle school enrollment was a little lower. Though there some minor shifts in staff duties as a result, she said, it wasn’t too extreme.

Erickson wasn’t able to be reached Tuesday, but his method was detailed in the fiscal year 2019 booklet. He forecasts kindergarten students based on live births from five years previously. He adjusts the overall projection based on the state of Juneau’s economy and overall population trends. He adjusts high school enrollments based on a historical analysis for returning students.

JSD paid Erickson about $2,900 to do the projection, Bartlett said. The projections help the district plan for the future. His forecasts go all the way to the 2028 fiscal year, and he projects that enrollment will continue to decline to about 4,150 students in that year.

Weiss is more optimistic for the future, saying that if Juneau’s economy can provide jobs and be attractive to young families, enrollment could turn around. She said she always pitches Juneau as a “unique and dynamic” place to live to prospective staff members, and that staff members who move to Juneau often agree with her.

“I’m very optimistic,” Weiss said. “I think our enrollment’s going to stabilize and we’re going to grow again.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in News

FILE - Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Sweeney's campaign manager said, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, that the campaign did not plan to sue over a finding released by Alaska elections officials stating that she cannot advance to the special election for U.S. House following the withdrawal of another candidate. (AP Photo / Mark Thiessen, File)
Alaska Supreme Court ruling keeps Sweeney off House ballot

In a brief written order, the high court said it affirmed the decision of a Superior Court judge.

President Joe Biden signs into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gun safety bill, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 25, 2022. First lady Jill Biden looks on at right. (AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

The House gave final approval Friday, following Senate passage Thursday.

Three people were arrested over several days in a series of events stemming from a June 16 shoplifting incident, with a significant amount of methamphetamine seized. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Shoplifting investigation leads to arrests on drug charges

Significant amounts of drugs and loose cash, as well as stolen goods, were found.

Ben Gaglioti, an ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, stands next to a mountain hemlock tree damaged in winter on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska. (Courtesy Photos / Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Bonsai trees tell of winters long past

By Ned Rozell A GREEN PLATEAU NORTH OF LITUYA BAY — “These… Continue reading

This photo shows a return envelope from the recent special primary election for Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. On Friday, a judge sided with the state elections office on a decision to omit fifth-place finisher Tara Sweeney from ballots in the special general election. Al Gross, who finished third in the special primary, dropped out of the race, creating confusing circumstances ahead of Alaska's first ranked choice vote. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Judge rules Sweeney wont advance to special election

Decision has Sweeney off the ballot for special election.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Saturday, June 25, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of June 19

Here’s what to expect this week.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Peter Froehlich, a retired Juneau district judge who is now a volunteer tour guide, explains the history of the history of the Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ in the State Office Building to a group of visitors Thursday. The organ has been idle since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now needs repairs before regular Friday lunchtime concerts and other performances on the 94-year-old instrument can resume.
Historic organ is in need of tuneup

How much it will cost and who will do it remain up in the air.

Candidate for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives Tara Sweeney, a Republican, was in Juneau on Monday, May 16, 2022, and sat down with the Empire for an interview. A lawsuit filed Thursday challenges a decision to omit Sweeney from ballots in the upcoming Aug. 16 special election. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in House race

The lawsuit says the Division of Elections misinterpreted state law.

Most Read